Prominent Australian scientist, Professor Tim Flannery, told the 39th Asian Racing Conference in Melbourne on Thursday (16 February) that racing faced challenges to attract a younger generation concerned with global warming and sustainability issues.
Professor Flannery, founder and chief councillor of the Australian Climate Council, was the keynote speaker during a session titled ‘The Sustainable’, which was attended by industry officials and delegates from 35 countries at the Melbourne Convention Centre.
He was later joined on a panel by the General Manger, International Department of the Japan Racing Association, Mr. Hiroshi Ito, and the Managing Director Energy Transition of Accenture, Ms. Julie Romanet-Perroux.
Professor Flannery said sustainability had to be looked at through the eyes of that younger generation.
“When that younger generation look at us, they see a very affluent group of people who by and large own houses and can travel the world on holidays and whatever they want,” he said.
“Far fewer of us are vegan and even though we can afford solar panels on our roofs, we often don’t have them. And we might be driving a big petrol car and they understand the science and see the fact that we are very close to the tipping point and it’s really going to impact on them in the future.”
Professor Flannery, who was the 2007 Australian of the Year, said sustainability was probably the single most important issue to younger generations and urged racing to engage with them.
“If you do the right thing, you will open the door to that engagement,” he said. “The potential is there but we have to start acting responsibly in their eyes, I think. Give them the opportunity and a chance to make a difference.”
Professor Flannery said the power of the racing industry should not be underestimated, and that it had enormous influence for change.
He said since 2007 mankind had released one third of all the greenhouse gases that ever existed in the history of the planet.
“So, this problem is growing,” Professor Flannery said.
He said the problem would continue to get worse, but how bad it got will depend on what actions are taken. Professor Flannery said “the best science” he has seen suggests that a country like Australia should be aiming for at least a 75 per cent reduction in greenhouse emissions by 2030.
Mr. Ito said addressing climate change, both locally and internationally, was important to the Japan Racing Association.
“Reducing GHG (greenhouse gas) omissions is an important and priority topic,” Mr. Ito said. “JRA has established the goal to reduce GHG emissions by 50 per cent by 2030 (2013 as base year).”
Ms. Romanet-Perroux spoke of the link of global warming to sport and racing and the need for change.
“The racing and breeding industry relies heavily on fossil fuels for energy – gas and electricity to power buildings, infrastructure and machinery,” she said. “Transportation – petrol and diesel to transport people and horses nationally and worldwide.”
Ms. Romanet-Perroux said an accelerated electric uptake would greatly support grid stability and flexibility, but further time and investment was required for the development of electric trucks which the industry required to transport horses.